Northants councils’ break-up ‘the death of democracy’

County Hall in George Row, Northampton
County Hall in George Row, Northampton

Northamptonshire county councillors heavily criticised the Government today with one Conservative councillor calling the important unitary vote the ‘death of democracy’.

There was widespread criticism of central government at County Hall from all political parties which make up the failing council as they took part in a vote to back a bid for a new unitary system of governance in Northants.

The unitary consideration has been forced on the county after a highly critical report commissioned by central government found the council was not fit for purpose and did not have a grip on its finances.

Long-standing Conservative councillor Dudley Hughes was highly critical of central government and the county’s seven Tory MPs and suggested he would not be delivering leaflets during the next election.

He said: “This is the death of democracy. This is the democracy of Putin.”

Former cabinet member for finance Cllr Robin Brown told fellow councillors: “Before us today is a fait accompli which I am not in favour of. I say the solution is that you do not send in a bid now. We are being railroaded into making a decision today which is not in the interest of our residents.”

Labour’s Cllr Gareth Eales said: “I’m opposing this, as the consultation was a sham. I’ll be voting against it as I think this is an attack on our democracy.”

When the Government asked the eight Northants council leaders and chief executives to draw up proposals it gave strict criteria which left only two unitaries as the single viable option.

The bid devised by the county’s top council leaders and officers over the past two months is a unitary for the west of the county covering the areas currently looked after by Northampton borough council, Daventry district council and South Northamptonshire council and one for the north of the county. The north unitary will be the smaller of the two and serve the area currently under the remit of Corby, Wellingborough, Kettering and East Northamptonshire councils.

As part of the proposals there is suggested ‘mobile working’ for staff and an idea has been mooted to put the debts of Northamptonshire County Council into a separate precepting body.

NCC is the first of the eight councils to put the bid to a vote. The other councils will all have a vote by Thursday evening and then the bid will go forward to the Secretary of State for local government James Brokenshire.

Sarah Ward, Local Democracy Reporter